Why Mabel Altered Her Will, Part 3
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Introductory Note: The short story “Why Mabel Altered Her Will” appears sequentially in issues I - V of the 1884 volume of the children’s magazine The Prize. The magazine gives no information about the short story's origins except the author's pen name, "A*". This author contributed many works to the 1884 volume of The Prize. Most of the contributions were short stories, although he or she also contributed some poems. The story was published serially in five issues, and within each issue, the story was broken up by several black and white illustrations. Some of these illustrations pertained to the story while others were illustrations of Bible stories.
“Why Mabel Altered Her Will” is written to a boy and girl audience, much like the rest of the entries in The Prize. The author stops several times in the narrative to explain to the "littler readers" what is happening in the story. The narrative breaks also serve to point out the religious moral of the story.
Because of its young audience and religious content, “Why Mabel Altered Her Will” fits very nicely with the rest of the stories, poems and illustrations in The Prize. The religious theme and the moral are most easily seen in the closing remarks of the story, where the author points out that, like we see in the story, there is nothing more sweet than “that which takes place in the heart of grown person or child who, . . . yields to the sweet influence of the Holy Spirit, and so passes from darkness into light.”
“Why Mabel Altered Her Will” is important in the context of Victorian literature. The father of the family, Mr. Glynn, is a pastor who is also well versed in the “Natural Sciences”. During the Victorian period, the natural sciences (geology as it would be called today) played an important role in the development of new theories about the origins of the world and the origins of man. These new scientific answers often opposed traditional Biblical answers to questions. Interestingly, however, “Why Mabel Altered Her Will” speaks very highly about the natural sciences. There is no debate about its usefulness or its capacity to corrupt faith. This is even more interesting because this story was published after the publication of Charles Darwin’s treatise, The Descent of Man. The story does not, however, enter into a debate about the merit of the sciences. It is able to keep its young readers interested, and at the same time teach its religious message.
This entry was published as the third of five parts:
Great was Ruth’s relief on finding that the leg was not broken ; but Mab must have twisted her foot under her, for it hurt her terribly to put it to the ground, and the ankle began to swell.
It was not to be expected that so selfish a child as Mab would bear pain well. She cried and screamed, ‘ It is broken ! it’s very cruel of you to say it’s not broken when I know it is ! Don't touch me ! I won't have it touched !’
What was to be done ? They were a long way from home ; after a short consultation it was decided that Dottie could walk, or be carried amongst them, and Mab must be pushed gently in the perambulator ; but the perverse child vowed she would not.
‘ It would hurt her, nothing should induce her to go in it.’
Suddenly kind-hearted Bobbie said, ‘Let me carry you on my back, and then your poor foot will hand down and not be touched.’
To this she ungraciously consented ; but she was a very heavy child, and presently Bobbie panting and exhausted, could do no more. Then Charlie tried, but was soon beaten. Then Ruth carried her till she too was tired out, and almost lost her patience.
She set Mab down very gently on the bank, and said to the two boys, ‘Will you go home as fast as you can and fetch Mrs. Glynn ? she will decide what must be done. We will stay with Miss Mab till you come back.’
But Mab felt that her mother would be displeased with her perversity ; so she sullenly consented to go in the perambulator, grumbling all the time, declaring they hurt and jolted her purposely, and so on till they got home.
Fortunately, Mrs. Glynn was in the house, and she at once sent for Mr. Rodney ; he found no bone broken, but the sinews were very much strained. Mab would probably have to lie on the sofa for some time, and rest her foot entirely till the torn sinews were healed.
Her mother bathed the swollen ankle very tenderly with vinegar and water, and was very patient with her ; for she knew the pain must be sharp, and as yet Mab had had very little experience of trial in any shape.
As she would need to be quiet for a few weeks now, Mrs. Glynn asked a friend to undertake some of her work in her husband’s parish while she stayed at home and devoted herself more to the children, Mab especially.
Of course, Mrs. Glynn knew that Mab had a bad temper ; how bad it was she little dreamt, and it was a most painful discovery that awaited her.
As I said before Mab was quick and fond of learning, therefore a pleasant pupil. Her mother had not seen very much of the children when they were at play ; besides, Mab was more guarded before her parents, not from deceit, for truthfulness was one of her best qualities ; but from the natural restraint which children feel before their elders.
The little Glynns would have scorned to tell tales ; and Ruth, who had at times a great deal to bear, thought in very kindness, but mistaken kindness, ‘ Mistress has so much to think of and to trouble her I don’t like to complain, and I suppose Miss Mab will grow better by-and-by.’
Alas ! growing older is not always growing better ; bad habits, little faults, sins, may grow stronger for want of being checked, if not entirely rooted out.
Mrs. Glynn made every allowance for Mab's impatience and cross words. She was an active child, and it was a great trial to be kept still, and no doubt her foot gave her at times a great deal of pain ; but her sullenness, her ill-temper and sharp words to her brothers and sisters, who did their best to please and amuse her, were sad to witness.
If Mrs. Glynn was grieved about Mab, she was pleased and surprised at the great kindness and forbearance of the other children. She began to suspect that their patience must be gained by long habit ; and by careful questioning and many talks with Ruth she arrived at a tolerably correct idea of Mab’s real disposition.
‘ You meant it kindly, Ruth, I am sure,’ observed Mrs. Glynn; ‘ but I wish you had not kept back from me the sad story of Mab's temper and general naughtiness. However, thank God, it is never too late to alter, and she is very young, so I trust there may never again be such dreadful temper shown either in the nursery or the garden.’
Strange perhaps, as it may sound, Charlie, who had always resisted Mab’s domineering the most steadily when she was well, was the kindest of all to her now.
‘ Poor little thing !’ he would say, as if in excuse for himself ; ‘ it must be hard for her to lie on the sofa at the window, watching us at play, while she cannot move without help.’
One of Mr. Glynn’s people lent her an invalid chair, in which Mab would like to have been drawn about half the day ; but here was a difficulty.
Mr. Glynn was not a rich man, and his parish was a poor and expensive one ; he had a gardener two or three days a-week, and he was now engaged to draw out Mab ; but this could not be often, Mr. Glynn would come home and draw Mab about in the garden, or at the back-way for an hour or so.
There was a young servant, Bessie, who helped in the nursery and the kitchen ; but Mrs. Glynn thought her work quite hard enough without drawing a heavy child like Mab ; but Charlie would constantly find half-an-hour to give her a ride; he would learn his lessons at any odd times that he might have some spare time for Mab, and in many a half-holiday he was quite at her service.
This gave her an uncomfortable sort of feeling which she could not define, but she showed it by being extra cross and disagreeable, like some very little children, who, when troubled or perplexed, show it by being naughty and perverse.
One day it was very hot and sultry, and a few large drops of rain that fell now and then betokened a thunderstorm. Mab’s sofa was close to the open window. She had a little table near it for her books and flowers. Her love of reading was now a great resource, and she had a variety of books and from thoughtful friends as well as a large home stock. Charlie was curled up in an easy-chair learning his lessons, and Mrs. Glynn was at work near him, though Mab was not aware of this. The heat made her restless, she threw her book down on the table and watched the gathering clouds ; presently Jessie came running in with an oxlip in a pot which she put on the tabel by her side.
‘ What is it ?’ asked Mab, crossly.
‘ An oxlip for you.’
‘ I don't want it ; take it away !’
‘ I thought you liked oxlips so much, said Jessie, pleasantly. ‘ I thought you said you liked them better than cowslips or primroses.’
‘ Very likely I did,’ said Mab ; ‘ But I hate those common things in pots.’
Now it happened that Mab had seven or eight pots of the commonest roots in her garden, so Jessie answered with some surprise, ‘ Why, Mab, I thought you were so very fond of flowers in pots ; that is why I put this oxlip in a pot for you.’
‘ I like proper flowers in pots,’ replied Mab, angrily ; ‘ geraniums or fuchsias ; but I don't want that thing ; take it away !’
Jessie took up her rejected flower, with tears in her eyes, and was leaving the room when Mrs. Glynn said, ‘ Jessie, come here a minute’ (Mab started) ; ‘ do you remember old Mrs. Williams in Crane Court ?’
‘ That old lame woman to whom I once took a pot of red daisies ?’
‘ Yes ; she has not left the court for three or four years, and nothing pleases her so much as a pot of growing flowers, especially the flowers she loved when she was a child. I was going to ask you at Easter if you would like to give her one of your pots of crocuses ; but her kind district-visitor took her two, one of blue, one of yellow ; should you like to take her your oxlip ? it would quite delight her.’
‘ Oh ! yes, mother,’ said Jessie, brightening up ; but when can I give it her ?’
‘ I will try and take you to-morrow afternoon. Take away your flower now and put it in a cool place.’
‘Mab,’ said her mother gravely, as soon as Jessie had left the room, ‘I did not think a child of mine could be so uncivil. I had almost said bearish.’
‘ I can’t say I like what I don’t like,’ replied Mab sulkily.
‘ You are not expected to do so,’ observed Mrs. Glynn, now much displeased ; ‘ but you are expected to be courteous to every one, much more to those who are trying to give you pleasure. Jessie was delighted at finding that oxlip in the fields because you had looked for one in vain. She broke her knife in getting up the root, and she took the flower of her own out of that pot because she thought the shape of it was so pretty, and you have not even the common civility to thank her. But, indeed, Mab, you do not deserve the kindness you meet with from your brothers and sisters. I am really ashamed of you.’
So saying Mrs. Glynn left the room. Charlie looked towards Mab’s sofa several times ; she seemed once or twice to be wiping away tears.
I fear tears of wounded pride rather than sorrow ; for though she was very silent that evening, when Ruth put her to bed she was simply unbearable ; her pent-up temper broke forth on that much-enduring person, who took it all very quietly, thereby exasperating Mab the more.
‘ You’re trying to hurt me ! I know you are !’ exclaimed Mab. ‘ I wish I was in the hospital. They’re kind to people there.’
‘ Very kind,’ said Ruth. ‘ I was there once, and shall never forget the kindness of the nurse, she always——’
‘ I’ve heard that before,’ interrupted Mab ; ‘ I don’t want to hear that again.’
‘ Will you have your ankle bathed to-night, Miss Mab ?’
‘ Of course not,'’ said perverse Mab ; ‘ why should I ?’
‘ As you please, Miss Mab,’ said patient Ruth.
Bessie was putting some things she had been mending into the drawers. She was half afraid of Mab, and glad to leave the room.
This story is continued in Why Mabel Altered Her Will, Part 4.
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18 March 2020
10 August 2020
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